Generational marketing is a key tool when segmenting your marketing audience as it provides a useful method of defining marketing strategy, channels and messaging. However, the effectiveness of generational marketing really boils down to how well you know the behaviours and preferences of Baby Boomers versus Gen Z. Marketers shouldn’t be blind-sided by preconceived stereotypes for different age groups, otherwise they run the risk of alienating or insulting the very audience they are trying to win over.
What is generational marketing?
This is when a marketing approach or strategy is designed using generational segmentation. Wikipedia defines a generation as “a cohort of people born within a similar span of time (15 years at the upper end) who share a comparable age and life stage and who were shaped by a particular span of time (events, trends and developments)”.
For reference, Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964 and are often referred to as the post-war generation. Generation X were born between 1965 and 1980 and witnessed video killing the radio star… (or did they?), but more on that later. Generation Y (or Millennials) born between 1981 and 1999, are an economic force but drive social change. Finally, Generation Z born and raised in the 2000s, have a high level of technological know-how, with a strong environmental compass.
So, what do you need to know when targeting these different groups?
Oh baby… boomers!
Baby Boomers control a huge share of economic clout, whilst nearing or entering retirement, and are most likely to spend on big ticket items that are not on the grocery list. Surprisingly, they are not averse to splashing out on technology either.
Whilst Facebook is by no means alien to this generation, they use it primarily for maintaining contact with friends and family, as well as reconnecting with old acquaintances. Typically, they will not appreciate or respond to any Facebook advertising or promotions that clog up their timeline.
In America, the over 50 crowd account for over 50% of consumer spending, but only 10% of marketing budgets are allocated specifically for this group. Despite perceptions that Baby Boomers are after coupons and discounts, this age group is ready to spend, so avoid price cuts. They are looking to enjoy the finer things in life and are most likely to pay more for additional services or warranties.
If you are preparing digital content, this generation still enjoy a long read, so ensure you blog post or eBook has sufficient detail to build trust and engagement.
Generation X bridges the gap between Baby Boomers and Gen Y, and are currently juggling mortgages and student tuition fees, whilst also becoming more concerned about their retirement fund. More technologically savvy than Baby Boomers, this generation is extremely active on Facebook and respond well to Facebook advertising.
Generation X is particularly busy and likely to be at the peaks of their careers, so whilst they have a lot of cash flying out the door, they’re earning it too. Products and services that make their lives easier, such as free home deliveries or click and collect, will help drive brand loyalty. It’s not all hard work and no play, they enjoy lifestyle splurges too.
Want to stand out from the crowd? Personalised and well targeted direct mail still performs well with this age group, so don’t throw all traditional forms of marketing in the bin just yet.
Generation (always ask) Y
This generation witnessed and embraced many technological innovations and are the most talked about and active on social media. They hold social values higher than economic ones and are likely to be driven by their network of peers rather than traditional marketing methods. They will glean their inspiration for where to go for dinner on Instagram and Snapchat, rather than searching for restaurants online.
Online reviews and recommendations are held in high regard with this generation, so ensure you have a method for showing how good your business, product or service is. Loyalty and reward programs, alongside corporate social responsibility goes a long way in keeping this generation brand loyal.
Video may have killed the radio star in the 80s but from 2010 onwards, radio is enjoying a renaissance, particularly for Gen Y who binge podcasts and Spotify. This generation likes to listen.
It goes without saying that those who belong to Gen Z are heavy users of social media and are more likely to use instant messaging services, stories and closed groups than other generations. Whilst this group is still relatively young, it is likely they will be entering the workforce or be working part-time between studies, and therefore become increasingly important for marketers.
Having grown up surrounded by digital cameras and social media, marketing imagery and video needs to be sharp, short and eye catching. Memes, GIFs and filters should feature heavily in your marketing.
With Greta Thunberg capturing the attention of every prominent world and business leader, her counterparts are equally environmentally concerned and are therefore likely to be more perceptive to incentives that drive positive change and progress in this area.
With seemingly countless marketing options at our fingertips and so many ways of segmenting and targeting potential customers, it is important to understand your target audience, the most effective marketing channels for them and what they are most responsive to in terms of messaging and value. It is far too easy to fall into the trap of stereotyping, but marketers shouldn’t take shortcuts in understanding their audience and the different generations they may wish to target.